In Your Dreams!

Catholic school guilt run amok. That’s what it is. I attended St. Francis for fewer than four years; but, the nuns still clearly got to me. I am feeling guilty for things I haven’t even done!

Tuesday  night, I dreamt that I drank a Diet Coke and Wednesday, I awoke feeling like I should go to confession. Are you serious?! Yep.

I first encountered this phenomenon (I’m going to call it that so that it ranks right up there with the Bermuda Triangle, telekinesis and the success of the Kardashians) when I quit smoking. At first, I would often smoke in my dreams and wake feeling very disappointed in myself for a few minutes before I figured out that I hadn’t actually done anything. My subconscious mind was still seeing me the way it had for a couple of decades – as a smoker. I guess on Tuesday night, it was still seeing me as a Diet Coke guzzler.

10365907_10152614322598197_80319119227901736_nThe only thing I remember about the dream is that, in it, someone bought me the soft drink and I drank it so as not to be rude – Southern belle training at its best, right there, folks. My guess is that the dream sprang from my weekend away visiting with friends and family. At the tailgate on Saturday, there was all kinds of food that I don’t normally eat anymore, namely chicken nuggets from Chik-Fil-A, and both barbecue chicken and pork from Little Dooey. Now, I have scarfed more than my share of both over the years; but, I don’t anymore. But, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t tempted.

As you know, I stopped drinking caffeine on August 8th and I stopped eating meat at about the same time. While in New Orleans, I did order a cafe au lait to go with my beignets, but I had a decaf because I truly do like how I feel without the caffeine jitters and headaches. Last week, I went off the food reservation once when I had a fried pork chop from 400 Degrees Chicken (in my opinion, the best hot chicken in Nashville) and again when I had a chargrilled oyster from Acme Oyster House in New Orleans. The pork chop was super tasty (as I knew it would be); but, it sat in my stomach like a brick and I felt just all kinds of gross later. The one oyster I ate was just as yummy as they always are; but, I really did prefer my red beans and rice.

In the end, I imagine that the soda popped up in my dream as a result of the meat that I ate and some bizarro misplaced guilt I feel over having eaten it. The fact is: I ate it. It’s done. And, in the eating of it, I showed myself that the path I’m currently on is the right one for me. The meat (well, the pork chop) made me feel crummy and, in the end, the delight my taste buds experienced just wasn’t worth the upset that the rest of my system underwent.

So, while Jimmy Carter may count it cheating on Rosalyn if he even looks lustfully on another woman, I don’t count it cheating when I dream of soft drinks or filet mignon. I’m not even sure I count my recent actual intake of meat as cheating. It’s more productive if I count it as a lesson learned.

I’m Committed (Almost)

George Strait says to “Check Yes or No.” I usually need another option.

I worked in aviation for a very long time. During that time, I was asked an awful lot of questions about things over which I really had no control. So, I never gave definitive answers. My answers were always qualified and had wiggle room.

Q: Is the flight on time? A: It departed on time and is estimated to arrive at (whatever time).

See how I didn’t really answer? There were too many variables for me to say yes or no. Another aircraft might land gear up on the runway and the flight might have to divert to another airport (that actually happened once during a flight I was working). Then it would be late. The aircraft might lose an engine and have to finish the flight on just one. (That happened, too.) Then it would be late. See? Too many variables outside my control for me to give a straight, committed answer.

check-yes-or-noSo, when a coworker asked me a few weeks ago if I was a vegetarian, I waffled on that answer, too. “I’m not eating meat right now,” is what I said. What does that even mean?! Well, it means that I might not be a life-long vegetarian, but, in fact, I am one right now.  I haven’t eaten meat in several weeks now and have no plans at this point to resume eating it. I just feel too good to mess it up with that heavy, sluggish feeling I remember having after eating a meal with meat. When this started, it was more like I was accidentally omitting meat. Now, I’m actively avoiding it. That’s a factor that’s completely within my control. It’s not a variable.

It’s not like barbecued ribs are going to jump out from behind a tree and stuff themselves down my throat. “Well, I tried to be a vegetarian, but I was the victim of a drive-by ribbing.” (How silly. We know from Mrs. Doubtfire that there are only drive-by fruitings, not ribbings.) I do not have a nocturnal eating disorder (that’s a real thing). I don’t wake up in the middle of the night with a chicken leg in one hand and a beef brisket in the other. Food does not mysteriously disappear from my kitchen. I am aware of what and when I eat. I do the shopping. I can choose to eat meat or not. And I choose not.

Does that mean I’ll be a vegetarian for the rest of my life? No necessarily. But, then again, it doesn’t have to. I’m not joining the Bratva, the Cosa Nostra, or the Packer’s Fan Club, for crying out loud. There’s no blood vow. It’s a decision I make every time I shop, prepare a meal or order one. I’ve heard of people who are vegetarian or vegan at home, but who are omnivores when they eat out. There are vegetarians who occasionally eat fish. I’ve spoken with several people who were vegetarians for a period of time; but, who no longer are. They were omnivores until they weren’t. Then they were vegetarians until they weren’t. My sister says I’ve gone to the Dark Side. Perhaps. But I’ll only be here until I’m not.

My friend Katie says that I have a problem with commitment. She might be right; but, I’m not willing to say for sure. However, in a discussion last week with a different coworker, I did say that I was a vegetarian. And you know what? It’s a commitment I’m okay with.

 

 

 

There’s Junk Food and There’s Frankenfood

Garden-of-Eatin-Sweet-PotFriday, I shared with you that I was in the midst of PMS cravings and just could not figure out what would satisfy them. Well, that was then, honey! I found the food I was searching for – Garden of Eatin’ Sweet Potato Corn Tortilla Chips! Mmmmm. AND they let me stay in my current menu. Nirvana, right? Healthy junk food?

I didn’t say they were healthy. I said that they let me stay in my current menu. Not the same thing.

With my new vegetarian, nearly vegan menu, I get a lot of questions and end up in a great many conversations about it. In one conversation, a friend expressed surprised that an obese woman she’d just met was a life-long vegetarian. How can that be? How can a vegetarian be overweight at all, much less obese? I used to wonder the same thing.

I always had this image of a vegetarian as someone who ate mostly salads and steamed vegetables. Honestly, I didn’t really get the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan since I believed that they both lived on primarily twigs and grass, drank herbal tea, smoked weed and dropped acid. (Well, maybe not all of them.)

Au contraire! (That’s French for, “Oh, lemme tell you how you’re wrong.”)

To be a vegetarian, a person does not eat meat. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t eat eggs or milk products. It doesn’t mean that they don’t eat sugar; it only means that they don’t eat meat. They can still eat cake, ice cream, candy bars, french fries…you get the picture.

Vegans are vegetarians who don’t eat meat or any other animal product like eggs or dairy. However, even vegans can eat a wide variety of things that aren’t necessarily healthy including Oreos, many cookies, most candy, lots of different chips, some bagels and even many frozen desserts. Neither vegetarianism nor veganism is necessarily good healthism. (It’s not a word. I know that, just work with me.)

These folks ain’t subsisting on grass and twigs.

So, back to my sweet potato corn tortilla chips. Like all junk food, they are calorie dense, nutrient sparse. A serving (about nine chips – puhleeze) contains 140 calories, 1 gram of sugar, 2 grams of protein and 2% of the RDA of both iron and vitamin A. 2%? That’s nothing. The reason I chose them rather than some other chip is their ingredient list which contains nothing that I can’t pronounce. Malic acid is the only ingredient I didn’t know anything about. Compare that to other chips with ingredients like monosodium glutamate and disodium inosinate. While neither chemical is necessarily harmful, I’d rather my snacks have more easily pronounced ingredients. I feel better believing that they are a more natural option than some other choices out there.

Or, maybe I’m just kidding myself because it says “organic, gluten-free and non-GMO” on the package. Could be.  In any case, my cravings are satisfied, the PMS Beast is once again at rest, and the neighborhood is safe.

Whew!

On The Faces of Things

chickensWhen my son and I evacuated New Orleans to get away from Katrina, we went to the home of my cousin Dorsey and his wife Susan. Now, Susan hasn’t eaten anything that used to have a face for as long as I’ve known her. Even knowing this, I emptied my freezer – including a frozen chicken – when we left NOLA. After arriving at their house, I was putting the chicken in the freezer when I dropped it. Their burglar alarm registered the sound as broken glass and called the police. Uh huh. Karma.

Once, frustrated with the limited restaurant options compatible with the Adkins diet I was on, I told Susan that, although my restricting factor was the opposite of hers, I had a glimpse of how difficult it was for her to eat out anywhere. I thought I understood, at least a little.

HA! Hubris.

These days, I’m not eating animal protein – with the exception of a little grated Parmesan on some of my roasted vegetables, and the eggs used as binding agents in many veggie burgers and sausage. I am also avoiding refined sugar, caffeine, and most wheat since it makes me feel bloated, gassy and achy. (Ezekiel bread is something of an exception; but, we’ll get to that another time.) These restrictions really don’t leave much on menus that I want to eat right now. Seriously, look over a menu next time you eat out. There’s not much there for gluten-free vegans. (I’m not really one of those; however, it’s the easiest description I can come up with at the moment and I’m feeling kind of lazy. So, there you go.) And menus at social events can be just as much of a wasteland as the ones at restaurants.

On Saturday, my company very graciously held a picnic for all facility employees at the Nashville Zoo. It was cool and overcast – really a great day to be out there, not Southern, sticky hot. They set up an enormous carnival in the middle of the zoo with lots of activities for children and with food and soft drinks for everyone. They grilled up hamburgers and hotdogs, had popcorn, sno-cones and cotton candy. It really was like a carnival! Great family fun and VERY generous of the company. (NOTE: I am in no way either complaining or criticizing this event, merely making an observation from a dietary viewpoint that is very new to me.) Anticipating a sugary, carnivorous menu, I took couple of apples and some water with me. That turned out to be a good thing. Although I was able to enjoy some of the popcorn, the rest just didn’t fit with how I want to eat right now to achieve how I want to feel. And that’s my issue, not my hosts’, let me make my thoughts on that perfectly clear, as well.

In years past, I’ve had people over for dinners and picnics, and I’ve served everything from homemade lasagna, jaeger schnitzel and moussaka to fried chicken and crawfish magnifique. As the hostess, I’ve served things that I wanted to serve with very little thought to my guests’ dietary restrictions. I really don’t even know if my guests had any! I can tell you that I will now be far more sensitive to that sort of thing.

So, Susan, it’s okay for you to come to dinner. Now, I truly do understand and I have some fantastic things on the menu that never once had a face.